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12 Huge Movie Roles That Brad Pitt Turned Down

September 1, 2020 1.7k votes 271 voters 26.3k views12 items

List RulesVote up the movie roles you're surprised Brad Pitt turned down.

Imagine Brad Pitt as Neo or Jason Bourne.

Those are just two huge roles Brad Pitt turned down. Of course, no one is going to cry for the acclaimed actor’s lost movie roles. Even Pitt himself has a great attitude about passing on films that went on to be blockbusters. What other huge movie roles did the Academy Award-winning actor decide to pass on?

Pitt has had the kind of Hollywood career most actors can only dream of. He has been able to take on roles in nearly every genre and every budget. Pitt can shine in arthouse films made by modern-day auteurs like Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and play the matinee movie star in big blockbusters like the Ocean's trilogy.

But not every career decision Pitt has made has turned into a home run. He passed on The Bourne Identity for Spy Game. He took the red pill when it came time to sign on the dotted line for The Matrix. And, he had the opportunity to appear in one of the seminal films of the 21st century.

Read about all the roles the Se7en star walked away from. Some turned out to be great career decisions, others not so much. While you're at it, vote up the movie roles you're surprised Brad Pitt turned down.

  • Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon starred in Ron Howard's Apollo 13. The 1995 biographical drama about NASA's doomed 1970 trip to the moon could have also starred John Travolta, John Cusack, and Brad Pitt. 

    Travolta wanted the role of Jim Lovell, but Hanks was already attached. Cusack turned down Paxton's part of Fred Haise and later starred in Grosse Pointe Blank. Pitt passed on Jack Swigert to play ill-fated rookie detective David Mills in David Fincher's 1995 neo-noir Se7en

    Pitt talked about telling his mother he passed on the opportunity to play the astronaut:

    I was talking to my mom the other night and she said, "I just saw the best movie called Apollo [13]." She said, "You have to do more movies like this!" I said, "Mom, I turned Apollo 13 down for Se7en! Wait until you see that movie!"

    Pitt's mother was probably more mortified than euphoric after seeing Pitt plead "what's in the box" in the tragic finale of Se7en. However, the gritty crime movie certainly helped Pitt transition from hunky matinee idol to serious actor.

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  • In the mid-to-late 1980s, before Brad Pitt became one of the biggest movie stars of his generation, he appeared on television soap operas and sitcoms like Another World and Growing Pains. In the early 1990s, producers for the prison drama The Shawshank Redemption cast Pitt to play the minor role of Tommy Williams. Tommy is the inmate that Andy (Tim Robbins) teaches to read. The young man is later shot down because he has information that could get Andy released.

    Before The Shawshank Redemption went into production, Thelma & Louise hit the big screen in 1991. In the female buddy picture, Pitt played the minor role of a studly cowboy drifter. Pitt's turn as the young, chiseled, and shirtless J.D. made the blond bombshell an overnight star and in-demand Hollywood leading man.

    Following Pitt's overnight success, he decided to drop the secondary part of Tommy in Shawshank. The role went to Gil Bellows. The Shawshank Redemption was an initial flop at the box office, but earned seven Academy Award nominations and became a beloved classic, even claiming the No. 1 spot on IMDb's Top 250 list.

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  • The Oscar-winning Ford v Ferrari could have served as a vampire reunion. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise portrayed Lestat and Louis in 1994's Gothic vampire version of a buddy movie, Interview with a Vampire. The veteran actors almost rekindled the love-hate friendship, this time on a race track, for 2019's Ford v Ferrari.

    Joseph Kosinski was originally brought on to direct the movie before James Mangold took over. Kosinski revealed that Cruise and Pitt were first considered for the real-life roles of car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles:

    And that story was one of those great stories of an incredible friendship and an incredible rivalry and an incredibly dangerous race. So we, I wouldn't say we got close to production, but I got to the point where I had Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt at a table read reading the script together, which was pretty amazing. But we couldn't get the budget to the number it had to be at.

    In the end, Matt Damon stepped in to play the role of Shelby (the third time he took a lead role in a movie Pitt turned down), and Christian Bale took on Miles. Kosinski never stated which of the two lead roles they originally had in mind for Pitt. However, it would have been interesting to see Cruise relive his Days of Thunder glory years and play another reckless race car driver three decades after he portrayed Cole Trickle.

    Ford v Ferrari went on to earn $225 million worldwide. It also won two Academy Awards and earned a nomination for Best Picture.

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  • In 2000, Pitt was certainly one of the best-known actors in Hollywood. But he hadn't yet taken on a headlining role in a franchise-type blockbuster. He had the opportunity that year when he was offered the part of Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity

    However, Pitt was already committed to star alongside Robert Redford as a CIA agent in Tony Scott's action-thriller Spy Game

    Matt Damon stepped in to play the amnesiac spy, and the Bourne series became one of the highest-grossing movie franchises in cinema history. Damon played the eponymous assassin in four high-octane installments. He took a break in 2012 when Jeremy Renner starred in the spinoff, The Bourne Legacy.

    The box office totals for the Bourne movies come in at around $1.6 billion.

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